The secret to a long, successful real estate career? Ditch the sales pitches and swagger. Just listen.

By Diane Terry

I am often asked what I feel is the secret to my 30-plus-year successful career. The answer for me is simple. It is understanding the importance of your listening skills. Stephen Covey said it best: No one cares how much you know until they know you care. I have seen fellow agents dish out thousands of dollars to learn “pitches” and, God forbid, “swagger.” I assure you there is not one past client I was honored to work with who cared about my swagger, and they would smell a sales pitch a mile away.

In the many listening workshops I teach and with the private coaching clients I have, we start first by understanding the type of listener you are. There are basically 11 listening modes to which we tend to default. You can find them in an excellent book called “Listen Like You Mean It,” by Ximena Vengoechea. It is very important to understand what your default mode is so you can be aware of your behavior and train yourself out of it.

For example, I am a problem-solver. The minute a client begins to share their problem, I am troubleshooting the issue five different ways in my mind. Before I learned to train myself out of this, I was so busy solving the problem that I was not staying present, remaining quiet and listening for the “real” problem, and probing for more.

All people need a bit of a warmup before they get to the core issue. So, they may give you what is easy to share, but unless you create a safe space and all the time in the world, then they are not going to trust you enough to share the REAL issue. The first problem shared is rarely the real one. If you do not know how to listen, you are going to waste your time showing how you can solve the wrong or incomplete problem.

When I meet sellers in their homes and I notice that I am doing the talking and not them, I silently reprimand myself with W.A.I.T. — “why am I talking”? I am learning nothing if I am doing the talking. Remember, “words conceal, silence reveals.” Get comfortable with silence. Did you know that in the U.S., people jump in after 4.6 seconds of silence due to discomfort? Contrast that to Japan, where it is 8.2 seconds. In the silence is a sea of possibilities.

Learn the type of listening style you default to in a client situation, and create a safe space for them to reveal what is most important to them. Learn how to ask great questions. Know how to probe deeper. Seeing good listening as a cooperative conversation vs. listening to “win” will serve you well, not only in business, but in all the areas of your life.

Who else would like to see a collective discussion of our industry revolve more around integrity, honor, work ethic, privilege, fiscal responsibility, a standard of excellence and the sacredness of our vocation? How about less of things like pitch, swagger, pay per click, buying leads, “use your buyers as bait” and sending unsolicited CMAs?

We are better than this. Let’s all hone our listening skills and become invaluable partners in our clients’ journeys of success.

Diane Terry is a 30-plus-year real estate professional in the Seattle area. She is the chairperson for Windermere Real Estate’s In City Standards of Practices Committee and has been for six years. She has recently parlayed her coaching and teaching skills into She offers talks, workshops and one-on-one coaching on listening skills, business planning, boundaries and women in business.

How a coach can help you gain the skills to succeed in a changing real estate market

by Buffini & Company

As the real estate market continues to shift, it is only natural that buyers and sellers are feeling anxious. Buyers are concerned about rising mortgage rates and how that will impact their ability to purchase a home. Sellers are concerned that they might have missed out on an opportunity to sell their homes for top dollar. And for agents, many of whom have never worked in a so-called “normal market,” it’s a whole new environment, as well.

There is still ample opportunity in the market for buyers and sellers, as well as agents, said David McGhee, vice president of coaching at Buffini & Company. What will be different is the skill set agents need to develop to succeed.

A “pro’s market”

As the market shifts, it will be a ‘pro’s market,’” McGhee said. “It will be the agents that have sharp skills and knowledge in areas like negotiation and leading a client through the ups and downs of a transaction.”

James Bell, a longtime Buffini & Company coach, agreed, noting that newer agents who have not had this type of training should consider it now. In doing so, he said he feels that their business will greatly benefit from it, positioning them for future success.

“I believe that there are probably 10-15% of [those newer agents] who will look back at 2023 and 2024 and say, ‘Those were the years that turned my career around,’” he said.

Allison Oster, another longtime Buffini & Company coach, agreed. “Brian Buffini [the company’s founder and chairman] is reminding everyone about the importance of the ‘three-legged’ business model,” she said. “That includes sales and marketing, customer service and financial management.”

Oster said she also stresses to the agents she works with to “keep in front of your database and take good care of your clients.” She adds, “People don’t buy or sell because of mortgage rates. They buy or sell because of what stage of life they are at, such as having a new baby or becoming empty nesters. Stay in touch with them, because you don’t want to miss out on any opportunities.”

Keeping the right perspective

It’s up to the agent to set and manage their clients’ expectations, McGhee said. For buyers, this is still a good time to purchase a home, because there is less competition. Homes are staying on the market for weeks now instead of just days, which gives buyers a bit more breathing room. It also gives them options to ask sellers for concessions, such as paying for points.

And for those buyers concerned about paying a higher mortgage rate, McGhee said this is another area the agent can advise them on.

“You need to learn all about the different loan products that are out there,” he said. “Reassure buyers if they take out a mortgage now, they can always refinance in a few years.”

“Before, clients were settling for a house because the market was so hot and things were going so fast,” he noted. “And with less competition now, remind them they can really focus on finding a house they love.”
For many sellers, there may be resistance when it comes to pricing their home.

“Sellers need to know if they price their house right, it will sell,” McGhee said. “But they also have to keep perspective on how things have changed over the last few months, too.”

Experienced coaching through every market

McGhee noted that although it’s a new market for many agents now, it’s not for Buffini & Company. “We have been coaching clients for over 26 years, through every type of market, including the Great Recession of 2008,” he said. “And we know that training and coaching gives you the important skills so you can succeed and be the trusted professional that your clients will come to rely on.”

To learn more about Buffini & Company’s coaching programs, visit